Seen No Smoking? Don’t, if you already haven’t. Probably one of the most disconcerting movies I’ve ever watched, the plot (or what I could make of it) is this: The rest of your life is a sum total of the choices you’ve made in your life till today—you just can’t escape yourself. That sort of responsibility is heavy.
It chokes. It gags. And yet, it liberates. Can’t blame the boss, the parents, the government, the system anymore. You make the grid and you ride it.
Money is a choice too. A cappuccino and cake. An hour at the gym. A CRV to upgrade to. A home loan to repay. Money is what money does. Money is power. Money is about choices. The heaviness of a Monday morning. Work begins for some. The ongoing engagement with work deep in the heart of another. The job does not begin or end. Work pays the bills for some. Bills get paid as a by-product of the work for another. The acute burden of money and its importance in this life. The lightness of being and money as a tool to exercise choices.
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The everyday totting-up of expenses to save enough to build a mansion. To retire cash-poor but asset-rich. The putting away of a certain sum by another, to live life today and tomorrow. To not retire but live on. When asked what they’d do with a notional Rs5 lakh, class VI students wrote this: a trip to Disneyland, a PlayStation 2, clothes, chocolates, the usual kiddie wish list. One child wrote: “Rs3 lakh for a dog kennel business, Rs1 lakh in savings and Rs1 lakh for two dogs and cats as pets for me. The dog business will get me Rs10 lakh a year.”
Part of this money would be distributed among various family members and part of it would get the child even more pets. Clearly there was a passion and money was a means to fund that passion. The passion itself would earn the child more money to indulge further.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The rules of money don’t change from class VI to age 60. The relative heaviness or lightness of the journey through life depends on how clearly monetary goals are articulated. I know it is difficult to sit down one Sunday morning and tap out your life’s goals. You’ll get laughed out of the family room while the rest of the gang savours its breakfast. So we have opportunities that ride free with major life events. Such as marriage. A new job. Childbirth. A change of city. Else the journey is a constant nagging feeling of moving but not getting there. Of riding a fast-moving vehicle with very little time of think of where you are going and why you are going there at all. Since “there” was not defined, you keep moving. So you can end up like Satyam supremo B. Ramalinga Raju, with villas in 63 countries, or under the scalpel of a heart surgeon with lifestyle diseases aplenty.
How the money is earned is directly proportional to the heaviness of the journey. If it is a fight, a struggle, a never-ending game of machinations and compromises, the money may be in crores, but the joy is all gone. If work is a passion then money has no option but to flow. That money is easy to earn, and enables you to take your life goals further.
Ah! Money. It can imprison. It can liberate. It is heavy. It is wonderfully light. The choice, fortunately or unfortunately, is ours. Here and now.
Monika Halan is a New Delhi-based certified financial planner.